Earlier this week I wrote a blog post about the smell of books. Normally I try to use my own photos on my posts, mostly because it takes forever to find royalty-free photos. For that post, I knew I wanted something book-related, so I pulled out a few of my older books, and in one case, one older-looking book, The Tale of Despereaux by Kate DiCamillo, took a few photos, chose one I liked, and added it to the post. When I was finished, I put all the books back in the bookcase.
Fast forward an hour later and the kids are eating their snack. My five-year-old son picks up the one book I apparently did not put back and in his most incredulous, I-can’t-believe-people-actually-want-to-read-words, voice asks, ‘Why aren’t there more pictures in this book? What kind of book is this?!’
I told him the pictures are trapped inside the words. He has to read the story to release them.
Drop me off at an old library, or antique bookstore, and I’ll be content for hours. Not only would I get lost amid the obscure and fascinating titles, but I’d savor each book, holding it in my hands and feeling the weight of it, breathing in the scent of ages past. I’ve always loved the smell of books, old and new. When a new shipment came to the bookstore, we’d open it in the backroom, pull out the hardcovers and sniff them. It’s probably a good thing everyone who worked there was a little odd and things like book-sniffing were not only accepted, but encouraged. Eventually, like most book lovers I know, I became curious. What made books smell? And, even more importantly, did everyone smell the same thing? Because often, my co-worker Shannon and I smelled different things. Read more
I’m going to veer away from writing discussions today and focus on something that’s affecting my life in a huge way, and that’s the realization that one of my children has autism. We’re still going through the diagnosis process, but last week the school doctor confirmed what we sort of already knew, that my daughter has Autism Spectrum Disorder, and now we’ve had a few days to come to grips with it. Yesterday, I sent a message to a friend to attempt to pin down a date for a dinner we’ve been trying to plan for weeks. I took the opportunity to explain why things are a bit crazy right now. She said not to worry and then she asked how I felt. The generic answer, the one we’ve been programmed to respond with, is anything vague and brave, like, ‘Oh, we’re a little shocked, but we’re good. Learning all we can!’ Or something. Unfortunately, that doesn’t even come close to what I feel.
So how do I feel?
The short answer is like a big, complicated mess. Let me explain: Read more
Autumn! This used to be my favorite time of the year. The world exploding in color, the crisp air, the smell of southern pines in the wind. Harvest festivals and masquerade parties. Apple pie. The smell of chimney smoke when people light up their fireplaces. Piles of leaves to dive into. Not to mention my birthday, which falls in late September. Why wouldn’t you love this season?
Then I moved to Sweden where it rains almost every single day until the snow shows up. I no longer wanted to walk through the leaves anymore because I came out all muddy and wet. An umbrella was required when you left home and, yes, it’s cold, but most years Sweden skips over ‘crisp’ and goes straight to ‘bundle up it’s freezing outside.’
This year, it’s different. I guess the rain came early, or it’s waiting to surprise us–either way, I’m thankful. It’s gorgeous outside! To celebrate, I thought I’d share a few photos. Read more
The kids are home this week for fall break and rather than set myself up for massive frustration, I’ve decided not to work on the novel while they are home. Instead, I’m going to relax and catch up on my reading! What better way to enjoy the new darker hours (Sweden switched to Daylight Savings Time yesterday and now it’s dark before five)? And imagine, a whole week dedicated to reading! Minus a few interruptions, of course. Dog. Food. Refereeing. General-all-purpose helper. (See how I had to strike through that word relax earlier?) But I know I can knock off a few books.
What a week! We’ve had doctor’s visits, school meetings, planning new meetings to meet our children’s needs, a lot of early mornings and late nights for my husband as his company continues with a crazy renovation project, coordinating schedules and rushing around, a few epic meltdowns, an intense battle between a dragon and a ninja (the costumes arrived yesterday), my son’s acrobatics at the breakfast table (which led to a split eyebrow, a ton of blood, and a bucketful of tears this morning) and for me, very little writing. Everyone is stretched thin. I don’t know how my husband is walking. He must have cloned himself. Emotionally and physically we’re all exhausted and some of us are a little beaten up (not from anger management issues, I promise. You have to know my son. The boy will climb anything, jump off of it, or try to explode it). Read more
I spent yesterday at a Short Story Masterclass workshop led by fellow Stockholm Writer’s Group member, Cassie Gonzalez (great name!). It was fun. We read some stories, talked a little about the craft, and spent some time practicing the techniques we had discussed. At the end, we took everything we learned and cranked out a rough draft to a short story.
I really enjoyed listening to the other writers read their work. I always feel so privileged whenever I find myself in the company of such talented writers, like those who attended the workshop yesterday. It’s also so much easier to pick out different components of the story when listening to someone else’s work. You see how they tackled backstory, or what weight they gave to various objects and it sparks a new idea for your story. Read more
I’ve heard people who own pets live longer than those who don’t. Me, I’m all about living longer. I don’t know about you, but I have way too much to do. I figure I’m ahead of the game, too, since we already have a cat. And not just any cat, but a smart, playful, snuggly cat that sleeps on top of my head every night. I think my husband, the cat person in our family, was jealous because as cuddly and wonderful as the cat is, we decided it wasn’t enough for us and added this gorgeous Samoyed to our family.
Last week, the University of Iowa’s International Writing Program launched their MOOC How Writers Write Fiction(if you’re interested in signing up, just click on the link). I took this course last year and thought it was fantastic, so I’ve signed up for it again. Unfortunately, the class isn’t even a week old and I’m already behind. At this point, I just have to laugh. I’ve discovered as a parent, especially as a mom, I must constantly reprioritize what’s possible, what’s probable, and what needs to stay locked in stasis somewhere in an alternate reality for a while. And yet, despite my revision work (Did I mention I’m finished with the novel?), school meetings, after-school meetings, running the house, celebrating my birthday (happy birthday world! So happy you came into my life all those years ago) and searching for a dog, I’m not too far behind. I watched the videos (most of them), I just haven’t completed the exercises, which leads me to this post. Read more
On Thursday, September 10th and Friday, September 11th the English Bookshop in Stockholm hosted two visiting authors, Jen Campbell, author of the hilarious Weird Things Customers Say in Bookshops and Marie Phillips, author of The Table of Less Valued Knights. Stockholm Writers Group member Karen Hagersten reached out to the bookshop and organized a wonderful evening for the group, and hopefully the authors.
For Jen’s talk, the bookshop was packed! Some folks were even sitting on the floor. But it was all worth it. I mean, who wouldn’t enjoy a glass of wine, a great interview, and a chance to not only get a book signed, but also to chat for a moment with the authors? After Jen’s talk, we took both ladies out to dinner and a number of us returned the following morning for the breakfast talk with Marie Phillips. (Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to make it to the breakfast talk. I’m bummed, too, because Marie was so funny and I really wanted to hear more about her book. The way she described it at dinner was–and I’m paraphrasing here–‘You know how King Arthur had the round table knights? This book is about the other knights–the ones who didn’t make it to the round table.’ My kind of book.) Read more